The last time Margaret McDonald, Scott Carlson and Brent Croston saw Dorothy Gray was Dec. 21 when they pulled her from the burning house she owns at 414 Grand Ave.
The last time EMT Firefighter Jesse Opel and Firefighter Paramedic Lloyd Hardman saw Gray, 75, was when they transported her in a city ambulance that morning to the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center.
Wednesday, though, those first-responders, accompanied by a number of their cohorts, met with Gray again, wishing her continued recovery as she convalesces at Devlin Manor.
Firefighter McDonald re-called the chaotic scene, filled with flame, smoke, onlookers and flashing emergency lights.
“She was lying face down five steps inside the door,” McDonald said of Gray. “The first thing I noticed were her white tennis shoes.”
McDonald, Carlson and acting Lt. Croston grabbed legs and shoes and removed Gray from the building.
“Scott carried her to the ambulance,” McDonald said of Equipment Operator Carlson, the largest of the three responders.
Richard Lee Bergdoll, Gray’s son, and his girlfriend, Anjeanette Pryor, escaped via a second-floor staircase behind the house. Bergdoll required some medical attention.
Cumberland Fire Marshal Lt. Shannon Adams determined that a malfunctioning microwave in the downstairs kitchen caused the blaze.
Gray’s niece, Debra Skelley, said Wednesday that her aunt was flown from the local hospital to University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore where she stayed for about one week.
Injuries, according to Skelley, included those from inhaled flame and the resulting damage to mouth and airway.
Gray, who was mobility-challenged before the fire took place, also sustained eye injuries.
Capt. Daron Winters, the incident commander at the fire, said Wednesday that the proximity of the city’s fire station in South End, three blocks from the scene, made the difference, probably between life and death.
Winters said that had first-responders needed to come from the downtown station they would have gotten there two minutes later. From the time McDonald, Carlson and Croston grabbed tennis shoes and started pulling, it was less than one minute before the fire incinerated the hallway in which Gray had been prostrate and semiconscious.
Winters grabbed his smartphone and displayed the inferno shooting out the side of the house and igniting the home at 416-418 Grand Ave.
“You hear about these kinds of things, about people’s lives being saved by firefighters like these wonderful people, and then all of a sudden it is happening in your life,” Skelley said, hugging every emergency responder she could reach.
“And the Red Cross has been unbelievable,” Skelley said, detailing the various ways in which that organization has and will help her aunt.